E-Sports has experienced rapid growth in recent years and is in the spotlight more than ever as one of the few sports still going. But how does it work and how can you bet on it? Pandora Hughes has the lowdown...
"With an abundance of stats, easy access to streaming coverage and a wealth of tournaments, there has never been a better time to get to grips with esports betting."
Esports is the fastest growing betting sport in the world. Last year's Dota 2 The International, held in Shanghai, had a prize pool of $34 million, while the amount wagered on esports is set to reach the $13 billion mark by the end of 2020. With an abundance of stats, easy access to streaming coverage and a wealth of tournaments, there has never been a better time to get to grips with esports betting.
The Key Games
League of Legends (LOL) is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) title, released in 2009, featuring two teams of five competing to be the first to destroy the enemy's base.
Dota2, which came out in 2013, is another two-team, five-player MOBA that combines elements of strategy role-playing, though it has its own quirks and peculiarities.
The long-standing king of the First-Person Shooter (FPS) genre is Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). This game features two teams taking it in turns to play the roles of terrorists and counter terrorists, scoring points for various achievements such as planting or defusing bombs.
The rise in popularity of the Battle Royale game has also seen the likes of Fortnite, PUBG, Overwatch and Apex Legends all making an impact, while other FPS, Call Of Duty and Rainbow Six still have a following, along with perennial favourites such as FIFA, NBA2k and Rocket League.
The Major Tournaments
LOL has 12 separate professional leagues, but there is a rough hierarchy, with the four main leagues, taking priority and the LOL World Championships, serving as the season climax.
The Dota 2 schedule features several high-profile tournaments sponsored by the game makers Valve, and boasts the biggest esports tournament of all, The International.
In CS:GO, the situation is more complex. The ESL Pro League, with four separate regional tournaments, is loosely regarded as the summit, along with the lucrative CS:GO Majors.
Outside the big three, the Fortnite World Cup has grabbed plenty of attention, as has the annual FIFA eWorld Cup, which is open to gamers all over the world.
Most organisations field teams in more than one game, but Team Liquid are the biggest of the lot, operating across 15 games, with an impressive 60-player roster.
FaZe Clan and Fnatic have been the two most consistent teams in the FPS genre, although Dota2 regulars Evil Geniuses are making waves on their return to CS:GO. NRG hold sway in Rocket League and Overwatch, while OG are dominating Dota 2, having won The International in 2018 and 2019.
New teams are emerging all the time, with the likes of Tyloo, Rogue and Luminosity all making an impact in the last few years, and last year's surprise package was ENCE, a Finnish team who reached the final of the CS:GO Katowice Major.
Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok burst onto the scene in 2013 as a 17-year-old, transforming the fortunes of LOL team SKT, going on to become one of only two LOL players to win three world titles, and the highest earning LOL player of all time.
Patrick 'f0rest' Lindberg widely considered the greatest CS:GO player of all time, and certainly the most consistently successful, f0rest is now a 28-year-old veteran, with 50 gold medals to his name.
Johan 'N0Tail' Sundstein was the biggest earning esports player of 2019. He led the OG Dota 2 team to victory at The International for the second year in a row.
Alexandre 'Kaydop' Courant is the star of the Team Vitality Rocket League team. Kaydop is Rocket League's top-rated player, and helped Vitality win the 2019 RLCS Season 7 World Championship.
Match Winner markets are the most popular esports betting options. Team and individual form are key here, as is team chemistry, with fresh line-ups often taking time to gel, even if they look good on paper.
Handicap and Correct Score betting is also popular option, but esports can be volatile, and it is common for even a weak team to win a map or two along the way, so this option is often best used in matches that look one-sided on paper.
First Blood or First Maps markets also have a following, and although these can also be volatile, they can be a good option if you spot a team that habitually gets off to a fast or slow start.